Me and My Job: HATTIE COOKE
1. What is your job title and company? And roughly how many people work for your company?
I’m rights assistant at Faber, where we have roughly 80 members of staff.
2. What are your qualifications and working background, and when and how did you take on your current job?
I have an English BA from the University of Southampton, and prior to working at Faber I had experience licensing performance rights at Samuel French. I had always been interested in working in publishing and my licensing background was a great and quite different experience in rights focused roles. This led me to apply when the rights assistant role was advertised by Faber.
3. What does your average working day entail?
An average day involves juggling the wide variety of responsibilities of the rights assistant role. As a team we’re responsive to the books on submission that day, providing feedback as both readers and rights-minded colleagues. I’m then keeping track of the contracts process for translation and other subsidiary rights deals, responding to permissions requests and licensing Faber’s production files to publishers all over the world.
4. What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy being in touch with authors at all stages of their career, as well as with the estates of Faber’s most celebrated authors. I also enjoy working across the breadth our adult and children’s lists, including fiction and non-fiction titles, which is not always common for rights teams at larger publishers.
5. What achievements are you most proud of?
It always feels like an achievement when I receive delivery of finished foreign copies. It’s a huge team effort from submission to deal confirmation before the hard work of our publishing peers abroad goes into production, so receiving physical copies of a book I remember tying up the paperwork for or sharing the illustration files is always the perfect summation of a rights achievement!
6. What are your biggest challenges?
The biggest challenges often come as one of the perks of the job. For me this is definitely the vastness of rights and the variety of work this entails. There will always be plenty of problem-solving to do, but it is satisfying when you can reach an agreement in a negotiation, work out a tricky contractual query or send out rights guides with all the information you needed.
7. What is the best thing about working for an independent publisher?
Working for an independent publisher, especially in rights, means I’m lucky to work closely with the majority of the company. This is particularly true given that our department works across the breadth of Faber’s adult and children’s lists. As a company it also feels like we share so much together. Before virtual meetings were the norm, we could all fit in one large room for the monthly meeting, seasonal sales conferences or to welcome and celebrate a newly published author. This gives a great sense of community across all departments.
8. How much training or professional development have you had, and how has it helped you?
At the beginning of the year I attended the Selling Rights Short Course, hosted by the Institute of English Studies, which was a great crash course in the foundations of rights. It was a good way to test what I had already learned in the role, and I picked up organisational tips to transfer to my work as well as knowledge of other areas in rights, such as co-editions, which didn’t apply in my current work.
9. How do you switch off from your work?
I enjoy a healthy balance of physical exercise and rest! Of course I do love reading, so venturing outside the books we’re working on for submission helps to switch off the work brain, and trying to keep up with the most recent popular offerings from Netflix helps to make sure I’m briefed for the non-work work chat when I catch up with my colleagues during tea breaks!
10. How have Covid and lockdowns impacted your rights work, your work-life balance and your general wellbeing?
Anyone who works in rights will have enjoyed a number of virtual book fair seasons. We’ve had to adapt the way in which we communicate with colleagues in the industry, without the familiarity of face to face meetings. Our departmental newsletter has been a great success in reaching our friends and updating them on our news.
Personally I have learned to create as much separation as possible with my working and living environment, even if this just means putting away from laptop during the weekends. I definitely have a greater appreciation for getting fresh air to clear the cobwebs and I absolutely did complete ‘Couch to 5k’, eventually, which helped to structure my time after work throughout the week and allowed time to decompress away from any screens.
11. What advice would you give anyone wanting to start or progress a career in rights?
Read widely and look for the exciting publishing happening in translation in international markets. It’s also incredibly valuable to understand how to read and interpret a contract!